U.S. stocks closed higher Wednesday as oil hit highs for the year and investors continued to digest financial earnings and economic reports.
“The big highlight for today is energy,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management. “On the whole, the earnings numbers are a little better than expectations and the economic data is keeping the Fed on the sidelines.”
Commodities settled at key levels, with crude oil ending up $3.10, or 5.82 percent, at $56.39 a barrel, its highest close of the year. Gold futures settled up $8.70 at $1,201.30 an ounce.
If oil can post consecutive settlements above $56 a barrel, the commodity would be on track to break a second resistance level of $65 a barrel, BTIG’s chief technical strategist Katie Stockton said. “Intermediate-term momentum has been improving for WTI crude oil since February.”
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The energy sector rose more than 2 percent to lead the S&P 500 for a second day as WTI crude oil hit its highest level in 2015. ( Tweet This ) Oil extended gains following the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a less-than-expected increase of 1.3 million barrels in weekly inventories.
“The EIA numbers are very bullish,” Phil Flynn, energy market analyst at the Price Futures Group, said in an email. “It indicates stronger demand and the smaller crude build may be a sign that U.S. production is peaking! This comes after the (International Energy Agency) report that shows a notable increase in demand!”
Oil drilling and exploration giant Transocean closed up 10.14 percent to lead advancing energy stocks in the S&P 500. Marathon Petroleum and Valero Energy were the only decliners in the sector.
“I think you could assume that oil has made a bottom. If that’s the case then the whole industry group should stabilize and that’s a boost to the entire market,” said Bruce Bittles, chief investment strategist at RW Baird.
Stocks extended gains slightly following the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book noted improvements in residential real estate but reported overall moderate growth.
“Basically it alludes to a mixed picture this quarter,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital. “I think some of the indications here are going to be ‘hands off’ on a rate hike in June.”
Investors also cheered mostly positive corporate reports as earnings season began.
The Nasdaq outperformed the major averages to close above the psychologically key 5,000 level. The Russell 2000 closed at a new high.
The Dow Jones industrial average briefly gained more than 100 points, boosted by more than 4 percent gain in Intel. After the bell on Tuesday, the blue chip reported earnings in line with estimates on revenue that missed, but said it expects to benefit from gains in its personal computer chips and its data center business.